Taking a look at Victoria Street with fresh eyes, Victoria Tait looks at the past, present and future of the area.
If you want to feel good about living in Christchurch, I would recommend a stroll down Victoria Street. Due to the street being largely owned by independent developers, it was one of the first off the mark to be rebuilt and in spectacular fashion. If Victoria Street could set the standard for the rest of Christchurch, we would be living in an architecturally renowned city.
Victoria Street was originally named Whately Road, after the Archbishop of Dublin, Richard Whately, who was a member of the Canterbury Association. It was later renamed Victoria Street after Queen Victoria and formed a major route to the north towards Papanui and beyond. In 1988, Victoria Street was stopped at Kilmore and Durham streets when Parkroyal Hotel – later Crowne Plaza – was built. There was a lot of public protest at the time. The Crowne Plaza was demolished after the Caternbury earthquakes, and there was mention of the road being restored, however, the idea never turned into reality.
Throughout the decades Victoria Street has always been a bustling hub for eateries, retail stores and corporate offices. You might recall some of the following pre-quakes: the BDM Building with the New York Steakhouse; the old Carlton Butchery with the likes of The Daily Bagel and gourmet fish and chip shop; the Pacific Brands Building and Strategy House. All of this seems to be but memories from another time and place.
The post-quake Victoria Street is one area in Christchurch that now offers more than it ever has. From the striking architecture of the Duncan Cotterill Plaza – creating a sleek financial hub – to the rebuilt Carlton Butchery building, which has managed to retain some of its old-world charms. The street is now becoming known for its host of interiors shops, from Belle Interiors to the more recent Cavit&Co.
If you are feeling down about the progress of the rebuild, take a wander down Victoria Street with your iPad and click on Google Maps’ street view history. I can assure you, you’ll be amazed at how far we have come.